Australians hate to pay for apps

8 October 2014

SYDNEY: Most Australians dislike the idea of paying for apps and even when they do pay a significant proportion are unhappy with the results, according to a new study.

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN), a consumer organisation, polled more than 1,000 Australian online users of smartphones and tablets, in an exploration of their views on paying for features and services and on data privacy in the app ecosystem.

One thing that emerged particularly clearly was that a majority of Australians expected to get their apps free: 65% of respondents said they either never downloaded paid apps or did so very infrequently (less often than every few months).

"Essentially consumers are not particularly keen to pay up front for an app's capabilities apart from the occasional one that they know they will find exceptionally useful," said Teresa Corbin, ACCAN CEO.

"The preference is to treat apps more to try out and if it turns out to offer extra features they want, people may pay at that point," she added.

Even then, however, satisfaction was not guaranteed. Some 42% of those spending money felt that they did not receive what they were expecting.

On average, Australian users had spent just under $20 each in the preceding 12 months for app downloads, content unlocking, accelerating game play, or removing ads.

The research also found that 18% had spent money unintentionally by incurring automatic credit card charges or taking an action without expectation of charges being levied. Games were the most problematic app category in this regard, accounting for 40% of unintended spend.

"The greatest risk for unintentional spend is when the device is used by the device owner – 56% overall," said Corbin. Children accounted for 29% of occasions and other adults the remaining 16%.

Financial matters loomed large in respondents' concerns about app permissions, with 85% worried about these have access to credit card information. They also had lesser anxieties about access to their contacts (68%) and photos (63%).

Few, however, chose to look at app permissions in any detail, although iOS users emerged as being more careful than Android users: 28% of the former examined permissions compared to 21% of the latter.

Despite the level of concern expressed over privacy, two thirds of respondents said they were not prepared to pay for a version of an app that wouldn't access their personal information.

Data sourced from ACCAN; additional content by Warc staff